Guide: Holiday Cheese Board Assembly

Ingredients

Cheeses By Style (choose 3-5)*

  • Hard/aged cheese. Cheddar, Gouda, Parmiggiano Reggiano (Photographed: Ticklers 18-month aged Cheddar; cow's milk, UK)
  • Semi-soft cheese. Gruyère, Fontina, Havarti (Photographed: Abbaye de Belloc; sheep's milk, France and Bethmale; said to be a favorite of King Louis VI, goat's milk, France)
  • Blue cheese. Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Meytag Blue, Stilton (Photographed: Point Reyes Farmstead Company Original Blue; cow's milk, USA)
  • Soft-ripened cheese. Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog (Photographed: Le Rustique Camembert; cow's milk, France)
  • Fresh cheese. Chèvre, Fromage Blanc, Mozzarella

Crackers and Breads

  • I prefer neutral crackers, flatbreads, and bread sticks (such as olive oil and sea salt) to complement a range of cheeses. A sliced baguette is also a wonderful choice, especially when serving fresh or spreadable cheese, such as chèvre. Whole grain and fruit and nut varieties of crackers and breads are also a nice touch.

Accompaniments (choose 3-5)

  • Cured meats or sausages: saucisson sec, soppressatta, salami, proscuitto
  • Nuts: I prefer to choose roasted and lightly salted varieties, as opposed to heavily spiced nuts so the flavors don't compete with the aromas of the cheeses.
  • Seasonal fruits: sliced apples, pears, grapes**, figs
  • Dried fruits: apricots, cherries, dates
  • Condiments: honey, honeycomb, sweet-savory jam (such as my Bacon Jam or Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam), mustard (if serving cured sausages)
  • Savory: cornichons, olives

Instructions

  1. I plan on about 1-1/2 ounces of cheese per guest.

  2. When plating, separate out any very aromatic cheeses to a second plate so they don't overpower more delicate selections.

  3. Cheeses should be removed from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving for the best textures and flavors.

  4. If not slicing cheeses for display, provide a separate knife for each variety on the board.

  5. For a busy gathering, small chalkboard tags (pictured above) are a great way to label your cheeses so guests will know their choices without your attention.

  6. Have fun and be creative! Try themed boards to fit your gathering, such as French or Mediterranean.

Recipe Notes

*examples of widely available cheese varieties listed; to discover more, this Styles of Cheese guide from James Beard Award-winning author, Laura Werlin, is a fantastic resource.

**Quick tip! Want to "sugar frost" grapes? Brush clusters with pasteurized liquid egg whites (or just lightly dampen with water for a more rustic appearance), and sprinkle grapes with superfine sugar. Shake off excess and let dry at room temperature for 1-2 hours.